Here is sample letter #3. Copy and paste the contents into your word processing software, or download an editable Word document. Click here for more information on writing to groups and individuals. Click here for a list of contacts to write to.
Dear _______________ (e.g. Honourable George Abbott),
I am a BC resident and I wish to express my concerns with the issue of chronic underfunding in the public school system of British Columbia. I’ve always been an advocate of public schooling but since my eldest child began school in 2009 I’ve seen, first hand, the crippling effect of underfunding schools. Upon receipt of an open letter to the parents in my school district (District 44, North Vancouver) by the local teachers’ association it was clear that action in this area is needed. I have realized that as a parent, taxpayer and voter that I, along with all the citizens of BC, am a primary shareholder in the corporation of BC and inaction and apathy would be tantamount to an abdication of my rights as the boss.
The delivery of an exceptional public education system is our best chance of further economic growth and social justice. It is the only forum of education which best identifies with our province’s social, cultural and economic values. As individuals, it is the only avenue for many to become proficient in language, math and technology as adults and we are raising adults not children. As many industries, service providers and political agents become more mercenary in their approach to clients there is increasing pressure for individuals to be active participants in areas such as career development, financial planning, legal matters, public policy development and healthcare. This will require the ability to research and think critically about: local and world economics, health information and government policy. As a society the effect of education is widespread, occurs over multiple generations and is difficult to measure. The completion rates of High School is predictor of crimes rates and citizen health (a stance supported by the federal government, see http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/ph-sp/determinants/qa-qr3-eng.php as a way of decreasing overall healthcare spending). The public school system is the best way to address and educate about climate change and green initiatives to a majority of the public in order achieve carbon emission targets agreed to by the various levels of government to the international community. Our democracy itself relies on quality public education to equip citizens to analyze political platforms and make informed electoral decisions. These are just a few examples of why we should be striving for a world class public education system.
As per the open letter from the North Vancouver Teachers’ Association “In the budget passed by the North Vancouver Board of Education last year as required by law, almost 6 million dollars worth of budget cuts were made in order to produce a balanced budget.” These cuts included but were not limited to 40 fewer teaching positions, school library time and books cut, increased split classes, increased class sizes, cuts to music programs, and decreased special education aides. Also, the schools days were made 10 minutes longer to accommodate an extra week of spring break in order to save the school district $150K. These extra 10 minutes do not enhance education. The additional week off school also cost parents upwards of a $1M in extra daycare and camp costs. One might argue that the extra week was a boon to the economy but many have had to adjust their spending on extracurricular activities and holidays to account for this week. In addition, unlike summer which is a known quantity and where many teens have jobs; there are social implications of having adolescents in an unstructured environment for an extra week. In addition, schools have been closed resulting in children needing to go further from home, scattering the community that develops within a school, increased logistical difficulties in getting students to and from school, increased traffic congestion in front of schools, etc.
I realize that the reasons for the shortfall are many and complex but it is critical that arbitrary financial pressures and short sighted planning not undermine the public school system for generations to come. The current per capita funding model is flawed; the fixed costs associated with schools doesn’t allow for changes in demographics. The government maintains that it has increased funding but those increases have been outstripped by cost increases. The increases come from contract obligations which were foreseeable, increased need for administrators to manage government mandated benchmarking projects, material and labour price increases on capital projects and maintenance driven by the marketplace and commodity price increases for things like heating and lighting which are again market driven. It is important to note that I do not wholly absolve the teachers or the BCTF. The entire system is too adversarial to be effective in creating a successful school system.
I am convinced that there are some innovative and creative methods that funding could be increased or redirected. Here are a few ideas which spring to mind. Increase corporate tax rates. The argument against this is that doing so may drive away business and jobs leading to a decreased tax base. BC citizens currently pay approximately five times as much individual income tax as the corporations. We have among the lowest corporate tax rates in the G20. The average corporate tax rate in the G20 is 20%, in the US it is ~30%, but in BC it is ~15%. This “race to the bottom” of the corporate tax equation doesn’t consider that we have a higher personal tax rate than the US, a relatively small population and that cost increases for healthcare are growing faster than any segment of the economy – it is a race we cannot win. We should be attracting business by espousing the value of the people (a direct result of a progressive and successful public education system), the lifestyle that we can offer, the resources we have available locally etc. Today’s students will be tomorrow’s taxpayer; excellent public education will result in real dollars in the future. Additionally we need to end the diverting of public funds to the delivery of private education. The argument against this is that these students would put pressure on the school system. There are several problems with this policy: using public funds to deliver a private service is a slippery slope, most districts are faced with decreasing school populations and being forced to amalgamate schools and close others and private schools are not beholden to public values. I believe that if you value a successful public education system you must choose to use it. It is also up to the ministry of education to seriously consider the administrative duties which they push onto the teachers and schools. Standardized testing and school statistics have their place but misinterpretation and misrepresentation can easily occur. The collection of such data can be onerous and time consuming and many parents feel that the time could be better spent in instruction. The ministry should be in direct consultation (without burdening the schools) with parents about how we feel our students are doing as our expectations are based on many more factors than what can be measured on any test or will be conveyed in statistics.
As members of our government you are charged with the protection and improvement of the institutions we hold dear. This issue will be a game changing issue in the upcoming election; please show the leadership our children deserve and increase funding in a responsible manner.
c.c. MLA, Board of Trustees, Administration/Superintendent
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